The fight for customers is really a fight for prospects, particularly in the high-tech field. Systems and software are hefty investments. They’re only replaced or upgraded after careful consideration. Yet lead qualification often falls through the crack between marketing and sales. In today’s do-more-with-less economy, the sales staff only has resources to pursue the hottest leads.
Sonic had a substantial database of inactive marketing leads. Some were older leads with no activity beyond the original acquisition. In other cases, an attempt was made to reach the prospect, who wasn’t ready to go further in the buying process. And a number of new leads hadn’t yet been contacted.
With too many leads to follow up on, and too few qualified leads to pursue (beyond the ones sales cherry-picked, based on company and title), sales had no systematic way to identify leads that represented genuine opportunities.
To uncover these opportunities, Ken Evans, Sonic’s marketing manager, adopted a “no marketing lead left behind” policy. He worked with LeadMaker to create a three-part series of email messages designed to build electronic relationships with inactive leads to requalify them, then to forward them to sales.
As a copywriter, I was extremely impressed by the well thought out strategy behind these messages. So I asked The Devereux Group to post them on its Web site. To protect client confidentiality, these aren’t the exact email messages that were sent, but demo versions for viewing the overall strategy.
The top of the message identifies this message as part of a series. This acknowledges the decision/buying process is a long one, and the prospect must gather a lot of information to make a decision.
To help with the research, the email offers a research report, which can be downloaded right away. Click on the “free copy” link to see a number of lead-qualifying questions that determine if the prospect has a potential project in mind.
A free demo is offered, too. And as an incentive to read future messages, the reader is promised other valuable documents down the road.
The second message begins by referring to the previous download offer and offering another helpful tool. To access that tool, more lead-qualifying questions must be answered to determine the nature of the prospect’s challenges. In every email, readers exchange sales intelligence on their decision-making process to improve their own purchasing expertise. The message concludes with a promise of a return on investment (ROI) case study in a future email.
Again, the message opens with the previous offer. It moves on to the next one (the ROI case study). New questions are asked of prospects, which they must answer to access the download. Questions include requesting the names of colleagues involved in the buying process. At the end, links to all three offers are provided.
Out of 15,540 inactive leads, the campaign generated 611 unique responders (a 4 percent response). There were 112 multiple responders (0.7 percent) who opened more than one message. From the group of new leads who hadn’t previously been contacted, Sonic benefited with a 16 percent response rate.
For each message, nonresponders were automatically sent a follow-up version, which increased results by 75 percent. In fact, follow-up mailings often do better than the original mailings, according to Prugh Roeser, president of The Devereux Group. Nonresponders who didn’t unsubscribe were sent subsequent mailings in the series, increasing results another 80 percent.
By filtering leads through the LeadMaker process, sales was spared the 96 percent of the leads not ready for in-person contact. They could instead focus on building deals with these better-qualified leads. Each time a prospect responded, sales received an email alert, along with all information gleaned about that prospect through the qualifying process.
Evans says the beauty of LeadMaker is it supplemented, and was kept separate from, his current CRM (define) system. “This way, you don’t run the risk of salespeople interrupting a lead in the middle of an electronic dialogue.” Conversely, when a lead is deemed “sales ready,” it can be removed from the LeadMaker system, so the prospect doesn’t receive additional messages in the series.
Have a dormant database of sales leads? Consider recontacting them in 2005. You could be sitting on a goldmine.
Want more email marketing information? ClickZ E-Mail Reference is an archive of all our email columns, organized by topic.
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